“No, really,” Scotty pleas. “Guys. Guys!”
We all laugh harder. “I just marvel at his comic delivery,” our wide receiver, Sammy, says.
Coach Daniels’ face suddenly turns sober. “Hey, he’s being serious!” We look up and the clock is ticking. 9... 8... 7... 6.
“Can we call a timeout?” asks Coach Daniels. “Do we have any left? How can you tell?”
“Well, they show it on TV,” says Sammy. “There’s a little yellow line for each timeout. Can we get a TV?”
“At this time?!” yells Coach. He huffs and puffs and throws his headset down, and then he leaves the stadium.
“I have an ipad,” our lineman, Steven, says. So a lowly, corny field assistant fetches it from Steven’s pack. We unzip it, register it (there’s an error and we have to call Apple), fire it up, realize we don’t know the Wifi password at Mile High Stadium, ask Peyton Manning (who gives it to us, swell guy!), we sign on, ask Google how we can watch football on an ipad, settle on DirecTV after making a pro-con list, pool our money together for DirecTV, call DirecTV, get put on hold, get a little temperamental and almost hang up but then realize our call matters and remain on the line while they connect us to the next available representative, agree to their 24-month plan, set a password, sign in, watch an introductory tutorial about the Sunday Ticket app, catch a few highlights of the other games (great run by Peterson!), finally click on our own game, realize we have one timeout left, and just barely call it, leaving one second on the clock.
“Well,” I say, crouching down, “I’m the quarterback, so I’d better come up with a trick play. Let me check all these weird numbers on my electronic wristband thingee.” I check all the weird numbers on my electronic wristband thingee, but remember that I never figured out how to work it. In fact, I’ve been faking it all year.
“We can ask Peyton again,” suggests Sammy.
I peer across the field, where Peyton is looking at his own electronic wristband thingee and nodding at how much he understands it. “No. I want to do this myself. Those pesky Mannings beat me up every year and it’s got to end. How about The Lisping Punter?”
“We did that last week,” says Steven.
“Oh, right,” I say. “Okay, I’ve got it. We’ll go with The Prince Fenlon Fake.” I glance at Scotty, who nods.
We break huddle, and our kicker, Terry, trots out onto the field like little pansy kickers do.
“Hey, you guys are down four,” Manning says, noticing that something is afoot, “and a field goal’s only three.”
“Go fuck yourself, Manning!” I shout. He doesn’t hear me because Mile High Stadium has just started playing ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ In fact, he thinks I have commented on the song and yells back that yes, it is an oldie but a goodie, and yes, one should never stop believing, and if I ever need someone to talk to, just give him a call, he’s up late, and sure we’re on opposing teams, but it’s only a game and we’re all in this together on this crazy, mixed-up Earth.
We settle into our field goal position. The stadium is at first confused, but then all the Broncos’ fans begin to laugh. I shoot Scotty a look. The plan is working.
Our long snapper, Jimmy, snaps the ball to me, and instead of setting the ball up for Terry to kick, I stand up. Everyone freezes. The crowd goes silent. In slow motion, the Broncos’ fans put their hands on their heads and mouth, “Ohhhhh noooooo.” They have been tricked, and we are the trickee.
As I stand with the ball, waiting for Sammy to run to the endzone (he runs a 4.4, but in slow motion that’s like forever), I hear a voice from the sideline. “Hey, you tricked us.” It’s Manning. There are now other Mannings with him as well, and they are all hurt by our trickery.
I am suddenly hit in the back. Scotty has stumbled back into me while doing his killer impression of Christopher Walken. Scotty has been chipping away at this Walken impression for the entirety of his rookie contract. At first it was poor and we all thought he was doing Woody Allen. But we knew Scotty would eventually nail it, and as I fall to the turf, the ball slipping from my hands, I can’t help but feel a tinge of pride. You’ve done it, Scotty! You’re going to go to Second City and make us all proud one day.
A Bronco linebacker, Von Miller, scoops the ball up and we are back to fast motion. He bolts to the end zone. It all looks bad.
Then I see Coach Daniels. He’s returned and he’s mad. Not the good kind of mad, where you’re angry and you’ve had some time to think and now you’re back with a plan to steal the ball from Von Miller. The bad kind of mad, where the word is used in its old connotation and it means crazy and you’ve found an actual Bronco, which you keep on a leash and apparently are confusing for your long lost son.
As he nears the end zone, Miller turns around to taunt us. He dances. Not too badly, either. I’d give him a B+.
“Running up the score?” a voice says. It’s Manning. He walks towards Miller, a scowl on his face. “That’s not the Bronco Way. Remember the powerpoint I made during training camp, ‘The Bronco Way’?”
“Was that the one where Eli did the animation?” asks Miller.
“I remember,” says Miller, nodding. “It was informative, yet not boring. And ultimately inspiring.” He takes a deep breath, having seen the light, and tosses the ball to the ground.
“But don’t throw the ball down!” screams Manning.
We return to slow motion. Steven The Lineman picks up the ball. We have the ball again! But we are 95 yards away, and big, fat Steven has the ball.
Steven bolts down the sideline. He is slow in real life, but in slow motion this is excruciating. He looks at me, like, “What do I do?” Run, Steven. Run.
And that’s when everything goes black.
“How long have I been in here?” I ask.
“Wow. Who’s president? It’s Manning, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” says Coach Daniels, “but not the one you think. Eli bested Peyton in a classic Manning vs. Manning presidential election. Archie wore a tie that was half blue and half red.”
“How did the game turn out?” I ask.
“We won, buddy. We won. Steven ran 95 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos were all distracted by Scotty. Scotty had secretly been working on an impression of Bill Clinton, and he chose that moment to reveal it. All the players fell down laughing. Everyone except Steven, who had the ball.”
“It was always Scotty, wasn’t it? He was always the genius.”
Coach nods silently. As he leaves my hospital room, I breathe a sigh of relief. We had done it. We had beaten the Broncos. And the whole time it had been Scotty. Scotty had pulled the strings all along. Even the moment when I thought I had come up with the plan. That was all part of Scotty’s plan.
A nurse informs me that Scotty died the previous year. He was entertaining the troops with his comedy when a stray bullet took him out. He made the cover of Time. Oh, Scotty. You will be missed.